Garden and Canning Update–September 18, 2017–Pickled Beets and the Berry Patch

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Patsy and I spent a long time working in the garden on Saturday morning.  As you can see, things are beginning to finish up, and we are pulling out the spent vines.  The nice cilantro, basil, boc choi, etc. that you see are doing well.  They are the seeds I planted in August for my fall crop.

On Friday, I pulled all the beets from last spring and made pickled beets.  There weren’t very many, but they were huge.

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They were really, really big and very ugly, but I boiled them for an hour and a half, peeled them, and cut them into chunks.

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I cut around the woody core and threw it away, as it was tough.  I got plenty anyway.

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I made a really big mess in the process and spent the rest of the day cleaning up pink beet juice.

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I made up the pickling brine according to the booklet I got from the extension office and canned for 30 minutes in a hot water bath, according to the directions.  Now, I have a nice bunch (around 14) of pint jars of pickled beets.  Yum!

While working in the garden on Saturday, I had Patsy pull and wash all the carrots, so I have about 5-1 gallon bags of those in the camper fridge.  We also dug the potatoes that were left and the few onions as well.  I picked lettuce and broccoli.  There were zucchini and cucumbers, too.  I picked every tomato that was red because it was supposed to rain. They tend to crack in the rain.  I got 1/3 box and will can those up this week.

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I was able to use a few of the volunteer baby green onions this week.  I need to weed around them better (obviously) and they should go all fall and live through the winter.

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The tiny little cabbages I planted have grown well this time, and are starting to head up.  The Swiss chard is prolific, but needs a little TLC.

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Our biggest task was to get these Marion (black) berries tied up.

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We pruned out the old, dead canes and untangled the new vines and tied them up.  Patsy was a big help.  We both ended up with lots and lots of stickers in our hands, despite the gloves.  In the end, we were both pleased with how the berry row looked, though!  This job is not for the faint of heart:)  I’m hoping I finally got the last sticker out of my hand last night!

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All done for this year!

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My sister sent more Italian prunes and grape tomatoes.  I will send the extra tomatoes to school with Rob, as neither she nor I can eat an entire bucket of them.  They are loving them at his school.

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The peas and kale are coming along nicely.  Kale is hardy, so will last.  Most of the garden is winding down, though, and I plan to continue pulling out spent vines, picking small bits of produce that are still ripening, and then Rob will till up the empty areas.  We have a huge compost pile where I’ve been throwing the old vines, canning scraps, etc., and we will spread all that out and till it in if we can.

We did get our first soaking rain last night, and so it will be wet this week, for the first time in a long time.  How nice.  We really needed it.

 

 

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Preserving Food and Garden Update–Aug. 18, 2017

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I’ve been picking produce daily in the garden since I returned home from Mexico.  Besides the peaches, cucumbers, snow peas, yellow, purple and green beans and strawberries you see here, I have also harvested lettuce, tomatoes, raspberries and potatoes.

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All of the potatoes in the buckets pictured above were grown from some volunteer potato plants that grew in the compost heap.  I transplanted them into a small row and was amazed by the amount that we dug today–I’m guessing between 15-20 lbs.

I spent some time today pulling up lettuce that had gone to seed, and hoeing out purslane.  I have a ways to go.

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This will be nicely weeded basil, snow peas and lettuce by tomorrow night, hopefully.

I did preserve quite a bit of food this week, as well.

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I asked for some bean SWISHERS.  That would be people who would swish the beans around in the cold water after I blanched them for 3 minutes so they could cool down before I froze them.  I loved that job when I was little, so wanted to share the joy with Jake.  Soon there were 3 pieces of equipment in the sink, and I asked Jake what in the world he was doing to the beans.  “SQUISHING THEM, AUNTIE” he replied.  I had a good laugh and then explained what I needed and he moved on with the process.  Soon, I found this:

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And a little later…this…’

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But we finally finished and everyone had fun!

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I made a batch of fruit cocktail using the pears my sister gave me, peaches from our tree, pineapple, maraschino cherries and grapes Rob bought (the grapes were only 99c/lb and the others were in bulk from Cash and Carry).

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It comes out so pretty that way!  Of course, before I could can in these jars I always use for fruit cocktail, we had to FIND the jars upstairs in the shop attic.  That took a while, but we prevailed.  These jars hold about 3 cups and it is the right amount for us.  Because fruit cocktail is a lot of work to make, we only have it occasionally and I don’t want to waste a bite.  I have enough ingredients for another batch, and hopefully the pears will ripen up enough for me to do that tomorrow.  I got 13 today and want more.

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I got 5 jars of tomatoes, as well, and none too soon, since I used the last quart of tomato pieces I can find, yesterday.  I still have pints, but why waste lids by opening 2, if I need a quart?  So, I do both quarts and pints.

I have lots more produce to pick and process, as well as boxes of fruit ripening on my porch.  I love this time of year as the canned jars start filling the cupboard.  I’ll be at it again in the morning.

Off on a Trip and Garden Update-Aug. 2, 2017

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It’s a little hard to see, but the green onions have successfully dropped seeds and new, little baby green onions are popping up all over the place.  They are in a good spot, and will be my fall crop.  I also have several baby watermelons forming.  I’m very excited since I cannot remember getting any the last few times I tried.  I guess they like this heat wave:)  We’ll see if they ripen.  The cucumbers are going crazy so I’ve made quite a few dill pickles.  The tomatoes are just starting to ripen.  I’ll have lots when I get back.

Because we are leaving tomorrow, and will be gone for several days, we worked hard in the garden yesterday morning.  The lawn was mowed, the place where the old beans were tilled up was re-planted with lettuce, spinach, basil, cilantro and snow peas.  I also planted some old kale seeds.  Lovana likes kale, and it may come up and give her some.  Because it is so hot right now–over 100 and 90’s predicted for the “cool down”– those seeds will have to be watered twice a day and may not germinate.  But, I’m sure some will, and Lovana and the automatic sprinkler system will take care of the watering while we are away.  She is staying home and keeping house.

We’ve been packing like crazy.  I need to take quite a bit of food, for my special eating needs, so have quite a few items in bins.  I will eat what I can from the group meals, but out of my cooler and bins for the rest.  We have purchased what we needed, got extensive work done on the van, got the air conditioner fixed for the second time after Rob drove down 5 hours of washboard roads on his recent sponsorship of the youth rafting trip and some connections jolted loose, packed our clothes, and otherwise done what we could do to make the trip safe and productive.  Now, the rest is up to the Lord to keep us safe and lead us into the work He wants us to do.

We will be going to a place about 4 hours south of the border, on the Baja, and will be partnering with a mission organization there.  We will do whatever they need done, including VBS for kids, helping with services, a youth outreach, possible putting on a roof somewhere, and ???  Rob and I will help with the cooking for the 28 teens and 10 adults (my numbers may be a little bit off–we’ll know at 5:30 am tomorrow–we are not in charge so don’t have exact info).  We will also participate in whatever spots we are needed.  The teens have been preparing and will do much of the things like leading singing, puppet shows, crafts with kids, etc. and we will help and support them in their endeavors.

I may be able to post updates, and I may not.  It depends on my internet access or lack thereof.  In any case, I should have a lot of nice pictures when I get back!

Canning Green Beans and a Garden Update

This morning, I got up early and started picking beans.  I got SO many, just like I was hoping to.  At 9, my mom and aunt showed up to help, with Jake and Michaela in tow.  While out in the garden, I took the opportunity to pick a few cucumbers, snow peas, zucchini.  Things are coming along nicely.

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The bucket is full of beans, and the other veggies are just resting on top.  I had no time today for anything else, but tomorrow I’m going to see if there are enough cukes for a couple jars of pickles.

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My pollination issue has been resolved:)  There are probably about 15-20 zucchinis forming!

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These are Carmen peppers.  They are a sweet pepper, and are the first to turn red at my house.  I usually grow them from seed, and was delighted to find a few plants of that variety that I could buy.  They’re not ready yet, but are coming along.

Some of the seeds I planted for the late summer garden are up.  The bush peas are up, and the snow peas are just starting to poke up.  Beets are up like crazy, but the pole peas are nonexistent.  The seeds may have been too old.  I will plant a few more things after these beans are done and pulled out, like yet another row of lettuce.  The little cabbage plants are starting to take off.   Right now the garden is full.

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Before he left for camp, Rob set up this camp stove for me to use in the outside covered porch and got me a full tank of propane.  This house came with a flat-top stove, which is not recommended for canning on.  So, I’m learning to can a different way–outside, and with propane instead of electricity.  There was a lot of juggling things around, scurrying in and out of the house setting up things, and generally figuring out the new way of doing things.

My snapping crew kept snapping steadily while I washed jars, filled them, added 1/2 teaspoon salt, filled with water, put on lids and rings and began processing.  Then I put my mother on a chair in front of the canner to keep it at a steady 11 pounds of pressure.  She had to continually adjust the propane level to keep the pressure consistent for 25 minutes for quarts and 20 minutes for pints.  We always watch it the entire time.   It’s the safest way.

Michaela and Patsy helped snap and then Michaela helped Grandma by timing the length of time needed with her phone.

Aunt Janet kept snapping.  All morning long.  Jake asked to go to the Dollar Store to get the prize he had earned by doing his daily activities.  All morning long.

By lunch time, we had them all snapped and into jars.   By 1 o’clock, we had 2 loads cooked and cooling.  After a quick lunch, we all dispersed to our respective errands and I finished canning them when I got back.  From the Dollar Store.  (We also did a library activity, and some other things, so I didn’t actually finish until about 8:30 pm)

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At the end of the day, I have 21 quarts and 17 pints, all cooling on a table outside.  I’ll let them cool all night and wash and put them away tomorrow.  I am very pleased with the amount we got.  I could not have done it without all my helpers.  I’m so thankful for their help.  It was a long, satisfying day.

 

Gluten-Free Cashew Chicken

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I found the recipe for cashew chicken that I promised to post.  I made it for dinner tonight and remembered why I loved it so much.  So, here’s to Jeannie–cashew chicken over rice

I started with a recipe from Taste of Home, and have changed it up over the years.  Here’s what I did today.  This recipe is very flexible.

Mix:  2 cups chicken or turkey broth

1/4 cup cornstarch

3 Tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce (we buy it by the gallon at Cash and Carry)

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Stir those ingredients together, and set aside.  This is the sauce that gives the stir-fry a great flavor.  Stir it one more time right before pouring it over the veggie/meat mixture.

Cut up vegetables and chicken and put into bowls, piles on a cutting board, whatever you want.  It just works better to have it all cut up before you start.  You can vary the veggies according to what you can grow, or get on sale.  Today I used:

2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into very small pieces (Mine were diced into about 1/4-1/3 inch pieces)

1/2 medium onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

Celery sliced thinnly (today it was the center of a stalk that needed used, other times I might  use 2-3 sticks)

4 large mushrooms

1 cup snow peas ( I would have liked 2 cups in there, but that’s what I had today)

1 bunch broccoli, cut into flowerets (it was 1 medium-sized bunch)  I also cut the stem into small pieces and added that in.

2 cloves garlic, minced

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I put a small bit of oil into a frying pan and cooked the chicken and onion for about 4-5 minutes, until the chicken was looking almost done.  Then, I added a little more liquid (some of the mix I made above, or plain broth.  If you use the mix, take from the top so you don’t get any cornstarch at this point.)  Then, I added the veggies in the order of hardest first, and softest (or anything that needed to stay crisper)last.  So, today I had carrots, celery, broccoli, mushrooms, snow peas and minced garlic.  If you have a different assortment, it will work.  Others I like in there are zucchini and summer squash, peas, and bean sprouts, to name a few.  The sauce is very important and it gives any veggies that great flavor.   I let it cook for a bit, stirring often.   After the veggies were crisp, but getting tender, I poured in the mixture.  I continued cooking and frequently stirring until the mixture thickened.  I did not let the veggies get very soft, just crisp-tender, because that is how my family likes them.

I made white rice to go with this, and it sopped up the marvelous sauce nicely.  I sprinkled some cashews on top of each portion after it was plated.  This would have been enough for 4 normal people, but 3 of us very hungry people ate it all.  It would be easy to stretch this, by adding more veggies.  It is tasty and healthy.

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Update–July 6, 2017

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I have so many green bean blooms coming on the bushes, it’s almost scary:)  I can see teeny, tiny beans forming, so I know I’ll be canning in a week or 2, and canning….and canning…..  I’m excited.  I like canning, and did not get to can last year.

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I got 2 ripe Sungold tomatoes, and 3 small Glacier Ultra Early tomatoes, but that’s it.  There are no more that look like they are even remotely ripe, but there are lots of green ones forming.  I will still buy tomatoes for a while, but the day is coming when I’ll be eating and canning those as well.

I had zucchini in a stir-fry for dinner tonight.  I’ve picked a small one and a very misshapen/half rotten one, but was able to salvage the rest.  There are lots more little ones coming along there, too.

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I’m getting a few raspberries and blueberries every few days. I have a few cups of raspberries frozen already. The Marion (black) Berries are starting to ripen.  There won’t be very many this year because we moved the entire patch last fall, but we will get a few.  I can pick wild blackberries this year.  Today, when we mowed the lawn, I took  the grass clippings and mulched the Marion Berries with them.  I’ve been able to keep them weeded out, and want them to have a good chance to get a foothold this year—-weed-free with plenty of moisture.

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I left 1`bolted cabbage.  Then, I chopped off the bolting part to experiment with it.  It started forming some tiny little heads.   I’ll see if anything comes of them.  Thankfully, my sister told me she will have cabbage to share.  I did plant 6 little plants for a crop in the fall.  Hopefully.

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We have harvested broccoli from each of the 5 plants that survived.  We’ve had it one time.  Lovana has eaten the rest.  The heads haven’t been super big.  Although it’s a lot of broccoli, it’s nice to see her eating veggies!  I still have side shoots coming along.  I’m not sure if I will try a fall crop of broccoli.  I will see how my time and energy holds out.

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I’ve been able to weed quite a bit in the flowerbeds this week.  There are still lots of weeds to pull, but it’s nice to see some progress.

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The nasturtiums have begun to bloom and I’ve cut many, many old, spent blooms off of the dahlias and roses.

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Rob put some systemic rose food and black spot deterrent on the roses, and I can see a little bit of difference in them.  They still have a long ways to go, though.  I did mulch a couple of them with grass today, and have put ashes on them as well.

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It’s been pretty hot, so we have watered a lot.  We are very thankful for the fact that there is a well here on our lot and the watering system is connected to it.  We have one of the greenest lawns on the block for that reason.  There is no way we would water so much, except for vegetables and a few flowers, if we had to pay for all that water.  It’s a real blessing.

 

 

 

 

 

What Do You Do With Bolting Boc Choi? Eat Lots of Boc Choi–FAST!

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Boc Choi loves short days.  Once the days begin to lengthen, it bolts.  So, the season ends up being pretty short by the time I can get seeds planted in my wet, wet area, get the plants to grow to a size we can eat, and then eat like crazy before it starts to bolt.  I don’t tend to plant very long rows, for those reasons.  We do enjoy it, though, and it’s nice to have a crop that likes to grow in cooler, shorter, rain-filled days so I grow some every early spring and occasionally do a fall crop.

The first way we eat it is in stir fries.  I use whatever vegetables I have on hand and usually splash in some gluten-free soy sauce.   I start with the firmest veggies, such as onions and carrots, then add things like celery, boc choi stems, mushrooms, bean sprouts, etc., if I have them.  The last thing I do is add the sliced leaves from the boc choi and then remove from heat when they are just wilted.   If the leaves are too bug-eaten, I just use the stems and whatever I can salvage.

Another thing I like to do with boc choi is to put it in chicken or turkey soup.

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Again, I chopped the stems up like celery and added them in when I made my soup.  I added the sliced leaves in at the last minute and just wilted them down.  There is not a strong flavor of  boc choi in there, but it adds a pleasant, mild flavor to the soup.

Another thing I made this week using boc choi was spaghetti sauce.  By today, I was completely out of celery, so I just chopped up some boc choi stems and sautéed them with a diced onion and some ground pork I needed to use.  I added Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  Then I added 1 jar of purchased spaghetti sauce and 1 pint of home-canned tomato sauce.  I just let that simmer in the Crock Pot all day and we had it for supper.  Again, there was no strong boc choi flavor, but the sauce was very flavorful and delicious.  I feel that any time I’ve used it in something, it has taken on the flavor of the dish, and at the same time added flavor without being obnoxious or making anyone ask why it was there.  Mostly, they don’t even notice it at all, but thought the sauce tonight was really yummy.

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It made a really good birthday dinner for Patsy, who turned 13 today.  I made salad from garden lettuce and a double chocolate loaf cake.  I hadn’t made that cake for many years, and never gluten free.  I only made one modification in the recipe I had used years ago, and Bob’s Red Mill One-To-One flour.  It turned out great.

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